we moved into our house two days after christmas in 1999. we'd closed on it while we were on our honeymoon. it was a nice honeymoon.
the first time i met my next-door neighbors, i had been out shopping and it was very cold and wet. i returned to the house to discover my husband out back talking to people i'd never seen before, along with my cousin, M and his wife, T and daughter (who lived nearby). there were a bunch of young boys running around my backyard.
when i approached the scene, Connie came over to me and proceeded to make me not like her a whole lot.
- she introduced herself as my neighbor and pointed out her two boys and some other neighbor kid who were busy running amuck in my yard.
- she started off saying that i looked young, and she'd mistaken M and T as the new neighbors.
- she told me how upset her family was that the neighbors had had to move, since they had kids the same age as hers.
- she asked me, "So what does your husband do for a living?" without a thought, and BEFORE asking me what i might do for a living.
- she asked if we had kids. when i said no, she asked if we were planning to. and before i had time to get over thinking THAT was a rather personal question, she explained to me that her 12-year-old, Brittany, is really interested in babysitting. hint, hint.
- she finished her visit by half-asking me, half-telling me IN FRONT OF HER BOYS, that she hopes it will be okay with me if her boys continue to be allowed to play in my yard, since it runs right into HER hard and that gives them a lot more room to play and that's what they're used to.
i agreed, and when she left and my cousins and i returned to the house, T looked at me and said, "that was so rude of her. now you can never walk around naked in your livingroom since you'll never know when those kids might run on by." and while i had never planned on walking around naked in my livingroom, i understood her point.
* * * * *
by october of 2000, i made a decision: i did not want to be a business person. i was good at my job, but it wasn't my passion. the hours were long, the commute was painful, and i wasn't making enough money to justify it, really. so i cut back my hours and started working from home. i determined that i was -- forevermore -- going to spend my time making our house a home. learning to cook. training our puppy. FINALLY writing my book. oh, and getting pregnant.
[alright, so, here it is: you're welcome to jump ship right now if you want to because i have no idea how the rest of the story or installments or memories are going to come out. i don't know what this will feel like or how it'll go. but in the movie of my life, george is about to meet clarance (if you know what i mean) and there won't be any finding of zuzu's petals for a long time.]
[ENTER K'S MOM, STAGE LEFT.]
my mom, having heard of this plan, offered to come down to my house (from where she and my father had moved to in new hampshire) for a couple weeks to help. i happily accepted. my mom and i had had our differences -- oh, how mothers and daughters can feud -- but they'd long been resolved for the most part. as much as they ever would be.
for two weeks we pulled up carpet, hung drapes, and painted almost every room in the house. the results were quite lovely.
on halloween, we decorated the entranceway with cobwebs and spooky music and gave away too much candy to the neighborhood kids. kids who called me "Mrs." because they didn't know i was only a pretend grown-up. i remember a couple girls coming to the door and looking in at my freshly painted and re-decorated livingroom and saying, "wow, your house is really pretty." and i stood there, proud as could be, having my recent life's work validated by nine year olds.
* * * * * * *
the last thing i remember about my mom's trip that year was that she went back to new hampshire right after it was determined that we, as a country, had no idea who was lawfully the president of the united states.
and also, that we had agreed that christmas would be at our house. no, it wasn't that convenient, proximity-wise, for the rest of the family, but the house was in much greater working order than my parents'. and also it was near to where my very ill grandfather lived. and it would be so less a burden on my parents -- my mom could finally just enjoy the holiday without having to worry about things like clean sheets for the masses.
passing the Christmas House torch to me was not easy for my mom, and it made her feel old and useless. at least, that's what i learned from her over email in the following weeks. but i explained that that's not at all how i felt, and that i would never be able to pull it off without her help anyway.
and once we cleared the air, we set about painstakingly planning christmas.
* * * * * *
you know, my mother was a prolific emailer. she'd sip her morning coffee while dashing off seemingly endless streams-of-consciousness that i often found difficult to wade through. they were funny and a little bit crazy, but sometimes it was hard to know exactly what she was trying to say. and so even though they were peppered with pearls of wit and wisdom, i found them kind of annoying.
i loved that i had a mom who was hip enough to start emails with "yo, yo, whazzup!" and end with the words "heart M" (since she couldn't draw a little heart as she did on notes to us around the house). but still, they were long and i'd delete them. because i didn't know.
as thanksgiving approached, the emails became longer and more detailed. we discussed who was arriving when, menus, shopping lists, decorating ideas, pet arrangements, cd mixes.
but after we spent thanksgiving in new hampshire at my parents' house, the emails started getting shorter.
and then they stopped.